free website hit counter Spiced Tea & Letters: January 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hey! I haven't been spending as much time over here cause I've been hanging out over HERE!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Seydou Keita

January 15 - March 4, 2006, Reception, Jan 27, 6pm
@ Sean Kelly Gallery, NYC

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Idlewild - The New OutKast Movie!

I'll check it out, even just to hear new music from OutKast (and to see Andre...)

Anyway, check out the trailer here!
All star cast including Patti Labelle, Terrance Howard, Malinda Williams, Ben Vereen, Cisely Tyson, Macy Gray (just got me thinking of Training Day and Scary Movie, lol, she's nutz)

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Brew

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You are invited.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Comfort Woman

Meshell Ndegeocello: Sista outsider finds Comfort
by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

November 06, 2003 (from NYU's Brownstone magazine)

The B.B. King Blues Club & Grill VIP section is full of journalists, record label personnel, publicists and other people who don't regularly deal with the public. They're all well-acquainted, huddled in the comforts of the semi-circled booths. Egos are hoisted in the air along with platters of $20 buffalo wings en route from an invisible kitchen. On the bill tonight, Meshell Ndegeocello and Soul Live. A man holding a guitar is introduced as K'Alyn. He plants himself on a stool, center-stage. K'Alyn's voice is like silk: smooth and beautiful - although he spoils all of this with a song of heartbreak.

The room grows silent as he sings and strums.
A tiny Meshell rises into view of the now-trembling audience. The motley crew is in awe of the impossibly underrated singer-bassist. They have soldiered through the opening act. A hearty applause sprinkled with whistles and throaty "I love yous" is offered. Bass in hand, hat generously tipped over her eyes, Ndegeocello begins to strum alongside the chords of fellow bandmates. Bob Marley is in the air. They open with the reggae-tinged "Love Song # 1." Meshell finally approaches the mic more than 10 minutes into the intro. "I can only give you what you give me," she explains and rips back into the groove. Turns her back toward the crowd and jams.

Three songs into the set, she sings, "Take me down to your river/I wanna get free with you." Now we're in the mood. Her voice is husky, sexy. It reminds you of that night. Embarrassed, you look around; fondling your ear, hoping no one notices your thoughts.

Pause here.

This is not exactly what is expected of a Meshell Ndegeocello live show. She is known for the seriousness of slaying contradiction with the groove in her bass, putting hypocrites on the spot. Tonight, carefree sensuality is heavy in order. Why? The mood of her latest album, Comfort Woman, says so. Where 2002's Cookie: the Anthropological Mixtape was unapologetically brash and earnest, Comfort Woman lets love rule.

Meshell emerged in 1993 in a Generation X-constructed state of black music. The airwaves were owned by Arrested Development, Das EFX and SWV, which were soon to be taken over by Wu Tang and Biggie Smalls with their reports from the live wire: New York City's rough spots they called home (Park Hill and Bed Stuy, respectively). Ndegeocello's first offering was the controversial "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" from her first album, Plantation Lullabies. She then made a little more noise with the remake of "Who Is He And What Is He To You" from Peace Beyond Passion. With that, she got complex on us and began to explore uncharted themes in R&B, such as biblical contradiction and homosexuality. Layer that with an early VIBE magazine interview in which she purportedly converted to Islam while championing her identity as a lesbian. Whoa.


Meshell Ndegeocello, aka Suhaila Bashir, was born Michelle Johnson in Berlin in 1969. Her religious mother and strict military father relocated her family to Virginia in the early '70s. As a young woman, she took on her new name: Ndegeocello means "free as a bird" in Swahili. Meshell proceeded with music as per the influences of her jazz saxophonist father, first studying at The Duke Ellington School of the Arts and later at Howard University. After the birth of her son, Askia Ndegeocello in 1988, she relocated to New York City.

The rest is history. Signed to Madonna's Maverick Records, Ndegeocello eked out a cerebral body of work. She received critical acclaim, Grammy nominations and hellish album sales. Undaunted, Meshell arrives at her fifth album, Comfort Woman, musing on life's driving force: love. An evocation of vulnerability, a masterwork of warmth, "I wrote [the album] for someone I love very much," she said. "I wanted to offer love as the comforting salve." Can it be at all that simple?

One question: How can one bad sista, who effortlessly charters new musical ground with every album release, be so slept on? Redefining the bass line in the process, she's the scion of any and every kickass bass player. She does see the light of mainstream from time to time. For instance, she paired up with John Cougar Mellencamp on a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" for Mellencamp's 1994 release, Dance Naked. Also a soundtrack queen, we caught glimpses of her on "Fool Of Me" from the "Love and Basketball" soundtrack and "Rush Over" on the "Love Jones" soundtrack. She has lent her virtuosity to albums by artists from Chaka Khan to Alanis Morissette to Roy Hargrove.

When conceptualizing Cookie, her label wanted guest appearances, rappers and well-known R&B singers. In the tradition of jazz musician Archie Shepp, who intertwined Malcolm X and Amiri Baraka into his work, she incorporated speeches of bantam figures like Angela Davis and Gil Scott Heron in her songs. Cookie was heralded as her artistic climax.

When the crowd at B. B. King's recognized the intro as "Dead Niggaa Blvd (Part 1)," they went into hysterics and began singing along to the lyrics: "You try to hold on to some Africa of the past/One must remember it's other Africans that helped enslave your ass." Indeed.

"You're put into a demographic that's made for you based on generalizations and you think you're better off, you think you're free because you got black this, black radio or that, you're just marginalizing yourself," she told Mark Anthony Neal, professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, in a recent interview. Cookie and Comfort are in fact two different albums. This time around, it's safe to say Ndegeocello constructed a portrait of love, offering herself as a comfort woman. Always changing her groove, she'll record an Afro-punk record for British label BBE after her jazz album, Dance Of The Infidels, drops in January.

Dreamy excursions describe the feeling of the show's remainder. Most of it is Ndegeocello and her band improvising one, long jam session. Meshell wanders the stage. She does not walk so much as glide, seemingly meditating on the solos. Harsh politics hardly share space on this stage. This is a love story.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Edification of Weldon Irvine

The Edification of Weldon Irvine

By Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Brooklyn’s Sisters Place Café hosted the first public screening of "The Edification of Weldon Irvine" last Friday. Filmmaker Collis H. Davis, Jr. who was a long-time friend of the late jazz musician shot the film over 20 years ago as his thesis film while a graduate film student at New York University.

"I decided to shoot Weldon as a subject for my film because at the time he had gained some sort of notoriety as musician and recording artist with MCA records." Explains Davis, who is currently a professor living in the Philippines.

Weldon Irvine committed suicide April 9, 2002, he was 59. It is interesting to note that Irvine’s mother also committed suicide.

The documentary opens up in 1974 with Irvine speaking with Davis about seclusion and isolation. Weldon explained the need to create two identities in order to remain self- possessed; one identity for public consumption and the other his own true personal persona.

Throughout the film Irvine delves into the his own personal philosophy concerning the struggle to attain peace of mind amidst a troubled family background and the music industry. Beautifully shot and edited, it pans from Irvine in performance at the Village Gate with his then band, The Kats, to him in martial arts class, to Irvine on location in his hometown of Hampton, Virginia. The documentary also gives an in-depth interview with his grandmother who raised him after his parents divorced.

Irvine was pianist, playwright and composer of over 500 works and is well known for his work with Nina Simone. As her artistic director in the early seventies, Weldon penned the lyrics for the song "Young, Gifted and Black."

"Nina needed an organist to embellish her sound," Weldon explains of Nina Simone recruiting him to her band. "She was a gifted poet, prophet and a perfectionist, which is why we worked together well." Weldon went on to work with Simone for several years as her musical director.

Irvine’s work is also sampled by many hip hop artists. A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation” is derived from Irvine’s “We Getting Down”, for example. Talib Kweli “Where do we go” from his latest album Quality, is a dedication to Irvine who was a close friend and a musical collaborator. Irvine has worked with many artists from different genres from Miles Davis to Big Daddy Kane to Talib Kewli to poet MuMs the Schemer.

Weldon had much faith in hip hop and was very supportive of the MCs who used the art form to offer commentary and invoke change. You may remember Irvine in the background rapper/actor Mos Def's "Umi Says" video. In 1999 he teamed up many well known MCs, who affectionately dubbed him Master Wel, to create the Amadou Project. Although never officially released, the Amadou Project celebrates the life of murdered West African vendor Amadou Diallo, shot 41 times in 1999, and it also give harsh commentary on police brutality.

Many of the questions asked during the Q&A by audience members, most of whom were close associates of Irvine, surrounded the nature of his death. Many speculated about his decision to take his life in the parking lot of EAB Bank, some made suggestions that it symbolized his rumored struggles with the IRS.

"We must show greater support and surround our artist and activist and those who go out on behalf of the greater community," says screening attendee Lisa Muhammad, activist and poet. “We had Weldon to turn to but he may not have had anyone to turn to himself.”

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

True talk: bringing in the New Year with Abiodun of the Last Poets always gives me the feeling that this year will be chock full of art. Last time I rang in the New Year with them, I had an amazing artistic year. This man can throw a party, Abiodun's New Years jam has been going on for 27 years! As soon as you walk in the door, he's there greeting people, telling folks to help themselves to food (peas and rice is on the menu, of course!) and insisting that you make yourself at home. At this party we're counting down on the Djembe drum, we're reciting poetry and of course, we are dancing under the requisite blue light. He lives on Morningside Heights, so the view from his home is spectacular: you can see all of Harlem! There's beautiful of art hanging from the walls. And, people are wearing art: everyone's decked out. And, I'm not going to talk about the brothers at the party, lets just say they're a work of art, too!

Create art, love and live!

Happy New Year!